We take rally cars based off front-wheel-drive subcompacts for granted now, but the Mini Cooper was the first of the breed. The humble Mini was originally designed to be an affordable city car, but others saw different possibilities. Race car engineer John Cooper took a 997cc engine out of one of his Formula Junior racers and fitted disc brakes to the Mini to create the Mini Cooper. In hotter Cooper S form, the Mini won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, 1965 and 1967, setting the template for so many rally cars to come.
Between 1997 and 2010, the regulations mandated that World Rally Cars must have been built upon a production car with a minimum production run of 2500 units. A number of modifications could be made including increasing the engine displacement up to 2.0L, forced induction (including an anti-lag system), addition of four wheel drive, fitment of a sequential gearbox, modified suspension layout and attachment points, aerodynamic body modifications, weight reduction to a minimum of 1230 kg and chassis strengthening for greater rigidity. The maximum width was set at 1770 mm while front and rear tracks shouldn't exceed 1550 mm.
Most of the works drivers of the 1950s were amateurs, paid little or nothing, reimbursed their expenses and given bonuses for winning (although there were certainly exceptions, such as the Grand Prix drivers who were brought in for some events). Then in 1960 came arguably the first rallying superstar (and one of the first to be paid to rally full-time), Sweden's Erik Carlsson, driving for Saab.